Writers' Workshop - Developing Your Own Style of Teaching October 28 2009

Writing Skills

Writing is an important skill students must learn in order to achieve academic and career goals. Primary grade teachers develop the foundation of knowledge students need to become successful writers. A child’s ability to read and write is strongly influenced by literacy instruction at school (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996). Students demonstrate the necessary skills for writing when they are able to tell a story, provide information, and persuade people with words. Mark Schneider, from the National Center of Educational Statistics, explains that America’s students are getting “better” at writing, with higher scores for both 8th-graders and high school seniors. Schneider also commented on the fact that we still have more work to do in order to teach our students the necessary skills for writing (Schneider, M., 2007).

Reading and Writinglearning-to-read

A student’s ability to write is strongly influenced by the student’s ability to read.  Book reading and children's knowledge about what comprises good writing is in direct correlation (Korat & Schiff, 2006).  A study of fourth graders found that students who read more often consistently scored higher on standardized reading achievement tests (Pinnell, Pikulski & Wixon 1995). The ability to make connections while reading, and to then write occurs when they are able to take note of aspects about text that they can expand on in their own writing (Smith, 1988).

Writers' Workshop Resourcesteaching-kids-to-write

Writers’ workshop is often used to teach writing while students participate in the following: mini-lessons, research, take notes, edit, revise and publish writing. Peggy Odell-Gonder’s research suggests that “…teachers should, suggestively, be exposed to a variety of ideas and techniques and allowed to choose those with which they feel most comfortable” (Gonder, 1979, online, p. n.p.). Therefore, there are many different ways to implement a writers’ workshop.

Teaching Resource Center offers many professional books to help teachers develop and enhance writer's worshop instruction.

Here's a list of books and resources teachers can use to suppliment their classroom professional development library:

How Does Writers' Workshop Look from the Back of the Classroom?

School administrators often evaluate each teacher’s ability to teach writing. An evaluator, such as a school principal, using the Writing Observation Framework (2003) will ask, “What does effective writing instruction look like from the back of the room?” Furthermore, there are nine components of this evaluation framework (classroom climate, prewriting, drafting, conferencing, revising, editing/publishing, skill/strategy instruction, assessment and teacher practices (Henk, Marinak, Moore, & Mallette, 2003, p. 325). A teacher’s use of writing tools will fall under many of these components.

As part of The Writing Observation Framework, a guide for refining and validating writing instruction, teachers are evaluated on their ability to provide and encourage the use of writing tools, such as a dictionary or thesaurus. (Henk, Marinak, Moore, & Mallette, 2003). There are many methodologies and classroom tools a teacher may use while teaching writing.

A Useful Tool for Teaching Writing - Writing Words Books by Pam Miles

writing-words-book-a-53520220One teaching tool is the Words Writing (2002) series of books written by Pam Miles. There are three books.  The Words Writing Book, Level A, Grade 1 & 2 has frequently used words under each letter (upper case and lower case) of the alphabet with extra lines to add a personal speller. Includes a page for each of the following: colors, days of the week, months of the year with abbreviations, number words, ordinal numbers, animals, contractions, family & friends, and holidays.

The More Words Writing Book, Level B, Grades 2-3 has a personal speller, quick reference pages of common abbreviations, contractions, number words, colors, family names and more. The More Words Plus Writing Book, Level C, Grades 4-6 has a personal speller and quick reference pages for abbreviations, contractions, number words, colors, family names and more.

Teaching Resource Center Offers Free Resources to Help with Readers' & Writers' Workshops:

I've designed the following series of lessons in order to help teachers supplement their readers' & writers' workshops. Please feel free to change the following to suit your teaching styles and the assessed needs of the students.

  • Writers' Workshop
  • ReadingBox_photo1_CarolBrookeReaders' Workshop (This can help the teacher and students get organized, so the students can work independently or in small groups doing leveled reading, as the teacher does individual and group assessments in either reading or writing.)


Gonder, P. (1979). Training teachers to teach writing. Education Digest. 45 (2), 49-53.

Henk, W., Marinak, B., Moore, J. Mallette, M., et al. (2003). The writing observation  framework. A guide for refining and validating. Reading Teacher. 57 (4), 322-333.

Korat, O. and Schiff, R. (2005). Do children who read more books know "what is good writing" better than children who read less? A comparison between grade levels and SES groups. Journal of Literacy Research. 37 (4), 289-324.

Pinnell, G.S., Pikulski, J.J., Wixon, K.K., Campbell, J.R., Gough, P.B., & Beatty, A.S. (1995). Listening to children read aloud. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/studies/2006469.asp

Schneider, M. (2007). National Center for Education Statistics. National Assessment of Educational Progress The Nation's Report Card: Writing 2007. Retrieved September 10, 2009, from http://nces.ed.gov/whatsnew/commissioner/remarks2008/4_3_2008.asp.

Smith, F. (1998). Understanding reading, fourth edition. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Teaching Resource Center (2009). About Teaching Resource Center. Retrieved September 10, 2009 from http://www.trcabc.com/about/  

U.S. Department of Education. (2007). Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2007–12.  Retrieved September 17, 2009, from   http://www.ed.gov/about/reports/strat/plan2007-12/2007-plan.pdf.